July 7, 2011

Is Online Dating for Atheists a Good Idea?

Online datingDating is a daunting process, especially for those of us who do not have the luxury of being in a setting designed to facilitate it (e.g., high school, college, etc.). The appeal of short cuts is understandable. Wouldn't it be great to have an efficient way of sifting through eligible partners to maximize one's chances of finding a good match? This is why online dating sites are constantly promoting their personality questionnaires, compatibility algorithms, and the like. This is also why some online dating services have decided to specialize by catering only to a particular niche market. In fact, this practice is becoming so common that it no longer seems controversial. I'm not sure that's a good thing.

Christians Only

Have you seen those ads for a Christian-only online dating service called ChristianMingle.com? What is your reaction to the idea of an online dating site exclusively for Christians? My initial response was something along the lines of, "I guess such a fragile worldview must be insulated against reality as much as possible." But on second thought, I've decided that it probably isn't quite that simple.

ChristianMingleI'd bet that if you talked to the Christians who use a site like ChristianMingle, they would say that they like it because it increases their chances of finding a partner who shares their values. On the surface, there really isn't anything wrong with that. In fact, I suspect many of us could relate.

Beneath the surface, though, an assumption is being made: other Christians are more likely to share one Christian's values than non-Christians. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is not the case. For example, I'd think that a liberal Christian would have more shared values with a liberal atheist than he or she would with an evangelical fundamentalist Christian. And this is not the only underlying assumption.

The problem with sites like this, whether they say "Christians only" or "Whites only" is that they operate on some questionable assumptions:
  1. The status on which they select members (i.e., Christian) is assumed to be an accurate indicator of one's values.
  2. The status on which they select is assumed to be more important than other statuses on which they do not select (e.g., political orientation).
  3. By restricting membership to people of a particular status, these sites communicate that there is something less desirable about those not permitted to use the site (i.e., they maintain prejudice).
Atheists Only

But what about online dating sites for atheists. Just because Atheist Passions is the only one I've heard of does not mean that there are not others. Are they any different from the Christian sites, or do they make the same flawed assumptions?

atheismIt is tempting to claim that there is nothing wrong with such sites because of the unique status of atheists as compared to Christians. As hated as we are, wouldn't it make sense to offer secular dating sites?

I fear that this is a shaky argument. Unfortunately, I think that all the same criticisms we could apply to "Christian only" sites apply here too.

As appealing as I might find the idea of dating an atheist (especially because I've had so few opportunities to do so), I would be crazy to turn my back on Christians. My most rewarding relationships have been with Christians. While religion was often an issue, it was not always an unresolvable one. And I am reasonably confident that I would have more in common with many politically progressive Christians than some conservative atheists.

H/Ts to Poodles Place and The A Word

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